Wooden box repeats rhythm used when knocking on the lid

knock-box-build

[Paul Mandel] just finished building this knock box project. It’s a familiar concept that uses a solenoid to tap on the side of the box. The Arduino driven setup monitors vibrations on the lid. When you knock on the box, it records the pattern and plays it back using the solenoid.

He was inspired by a knock-detecting door lock. Using that code as the starting point he implemented a system that takes input from a simple push button and echos back the rhythm using the Pin 13 LED on the Arduino board. This is a great way to start as it removes the complexity of driving a solenoid and monitoring a piezo element. After a bit of success he implemented each of those hardware modules one at a time. You can get a look at the final product in the clip after the break.

One of our favorite version of this project is still the knock block from several years back.

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A harpsichord that plays itself

[Malcolm Messiter] is an Oboe player who loves to play pieces from the Baroque era. This often means playing with a Harpsichord and he managed to acquire one to call his very own. Unfortunately you can’t play both instruments at once so he set out to automate the keyboard. What you see here is a fully working version, but he soon went on to add solenoids to the upper rank as well. His story starts on page 27 of this newsletter (PDF).

He really went out of his way to make sure the instrument was not mistreated. A cabinet-maker built some brackets to mount the system above the keys. A friend drilled and tapped a sheet of acrylic to which each solenoid was mounted. The solenoid shafts have each been padded with felt to cushion the blow on the keys. We’ve embedded two demo video after the break that show off the first and second versions of the builds.

Harpsichords pluck the strings instead of hitting them with a hammer as the piano does. The mechanism that does the plucking had worn out on many of the keys so [Malcolm] used a 3D printer to help replace them.

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Coil gun with parts pulled from an electric stapler

[Lou’s] latest tutorial details the process of turning an electric stapler into a coil gun. The stapler is the expensive part, but the rest is pretty simple. He used PVC pipe and a handful of fittings along with a few supplies you probably have kicking around your shop.

It’s surprising how perfect the Bostitch stapler (from which the parts were pulled) is for this project. The mechanism that drives the staples into your pages uses a solenoid with a rather large coil. To turn it into a coil gun you simply need to replace the core of the solenoid with a metal projectile. In the video after the break [Lou] shows us how to make a barrel onto which the coil can be mounted. From there he uses a wooden spacer to position a hunk of smooth metal from a bolt which serves as the projectile. The stapler’s original drive circuitry and trigger mechanism do the rest.

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Watering system for your vegetable garden

The vegetables will be alive when [Dillon Nichols] returns from vacation thanks to this automatic watering controller that he built. This is the second iteration of the project, and deals mainly with replacing the electronics and UI of the controller itself. He detailed the hardware used for watering in a previous post. He plumbed in a solenoid valve with a hose threading on the output end for the soaker hoses snaking through the garden beds. This is a normally open valve but we’d suggest using a normally closed valve as a power outage will let the hose run continuously.

[Dillon] prototyped the design on an Arduino board, then moved to a standalone ATmega328 chip on some protoboard for the final design. He used a 3D printer to make the custom face plate which allows access to the three control buttons and provides a place for the character LCD to be mounted. In addition to the timer settings there is a manual watering switch as well. He used a typical mains light switch, wiring it with a pull-down resistor to make it work well with the Arduino. His explanation of the timer system can be seen after the break.

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Any flavor sports drink at the push of a button

[Sage Spate] wasn’t happy with the boring flavors of orange, blue, or red sports drinks. He decided to mix it up by building this flavor-mixing drink dispenser.

He modified the caps for each bottle to work with an air-pressure system. This way the bottles themselves serve as the reservoir and can easily be replaced when empty. Each cap has two openings, one is used by the dispenser nozzle and includes a hose that will reach all the way to the bottom of the bottle. The other hole connects to an air pump. Raising the pressure in the bottle forces sports drink up and out of the dispenser hose.

One air pump is used for all three reservoirs with a set of solenoids to enable each flavor individually. [Andreas] sent in the tip and mentioned that some of the parts are salvaged from an ink jet printer but we’re not sure which ones. At any rate, the next step in the project is to add Arduino control which will allow for custom mixing based on preset recipes.

We’ve embedded the demo video after the break.

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A look inside what makes cruise control work

[Todd Harrison] took a look inside the business end of the cruise control system from his 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee. We were a bit surprised at how the system operates. The parts seen in the image above make up the throttle control, using a trio of solenoids to vary the level of vacuum inside the device.

We categorized this as a repair hack, but [Todd] is just rubbernecking and doesn’t have any real plan to fix the system. It’s been on the fritz for ten years and this piece may not even be the culprit. But we’re still satisfied because he gives us a look at the system which uses the amber-colored stoppers on the three solenoids to plug three different sizes of weep holes. The unit is a vacuum enclosure where a throttle wire connects to a rubber diaphragm and adjust engine speed as the diaphragm moves. The vehicle’s computer actuates the three solenoids, allowing leakage to vary the level of vacuum, thereby keeping the throttle at just the right level. Neat!

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Turning a bunch of solenoids into a performance of Stomp

Say you have a handful of solenoids, a copy of MaxMSP, an Arduino, and access to a whole bunch of parts in a textile museum. What do you do? If you’re like [Luke], you’ll probably come up with an Arduinofied performance of Stomp, played on dozens of old gears, light fixtures, and various other metal parts.

To control what noise sounds when, [Luke] used a Touch OSC interface running on an iPad to send MIDI information to Ableton. From there, MAX/MSP sends messages to an Arduino to actuate the solenoids on cue. The interface is set up so anyone can make their own compositions by reusing patterns into loops of solenoids making noise. Sure, it’s not the dulcet tones you would expect from a more traditional instrument, but [Luke] manages to put on a good show.

While [Luke]’s instrument may sound overly mechanical and dissonant, it’s entirely possible to replace the objects he’s hitting with the solenoids with something a little more melodious. Putting a few solenoids in a cave wouldn’t be a bad idea; too bad it’s already been done.